Matcha muffins

When-life-gives-you3

I agree it’s not as catchy as the lemons and lemonade but I’m trying to make the best of a bad situation here (i.e. 100g of bad matcha). These muffins are easy to make and taste great but they are not the bright green I was hoping for. To fit the part for this weekend I’ll try making them again with maybe 3 tbsp of matcha.

This recipe is adapted from a breakfast muffin recipe that a friend gave me but these muffins could not be considered healthy. To gain the benefits of matcha it probably needs to be taken withouth sugar and white flour. 😉

Matcha muffins:

  • 2 eggsmatcha muffins
  • 100g sugar
  • 100ml rapeseed oil
  • 200ml plain low-fat yoghurt
  • 220g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp matcha
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 100g chopped hazelnut

Whisk eggs, sugar and oil together in a bowl. Then add the yoghurt.

Sift flour, salt, matcha and ginger together and stir into egg mixture.

Add hazelnuts and then spoon into muffin cases.

Bake for 20 minutes at 175°C.

Stale tea

Last weekend we spring-cleaned the kitchen (we are late for 2013 spring cleaning not early for 2014!). In the process, I found some very old matcha, which makes for an interesting comparison with the fresh matcha that I bought last week.

Matcha - Fresh and StaleHere are the photos. You can see that the fresh matcha is striking bright green but the old one is a dull, grey-green. Tea doesn’t spoil with time but it does loose its flavour and colour especially if exposed to air. Matcha is one of the brisker tea on the fading process. Ideally it should be used within a few weeks of opening but keeping it in an airtight container in the fridge can extend this a little. I’m ashamed to say that the old matcha was not in an airtight container, not in the fridge and has probably been on the shelf for well over a year. In other words, a perfect storm of matcha degradation!

 

The old matcha still has a strong vegetal aroma but it doesn’t form the nice froth and the taste is unpleasant and slightly sour.

Brewed Matcha - Fresh and Stale

Not all the examples of stale tea are as obvious as matcha and of course it varies with vacuum sealing, conditions etc. but here are the general rules that I use:  greens: within 4/5 months (of the harvest date), light oolongs and early Darjeeling: within 6/7 months, black tea (apart from Darjeeling) within 12-18 months, pu-ehr and heavily roasted oolongs: whenever they’re ready – both improve with age.

For the teas that don’t age, I have a terrible habit of not drinking them quickly enough. When I find a tea that I love, I sometimes wait until I can make enough time to really enjoy it, or the right occasion, or someone to share it with. Some fine teas have been lost in this way and the matcha was a good reminder. From now on, I am going to be dedicated in keeping my tea list updated with the date of purchase/harvest. That might sound nerdy but it’s nothing compared to the plans I have for rules in excel and automatic colour coding depending on the best time to drink ;-).

Matcha

Matcha (or maccha) is a uniquely Japanese tea that comes as a finely ground powder. It is a green tea, but unlike most teas where the liquid is poured off the leaves, with matcha the powder is whisked into the liquid and ingested whole.

Matcha and chasen (bamboo whisk)

Matcha is made from the tips of budding tea-bushes that have been shaded with bamboo mats (or black tarp) for approximately three weeks of their spring growth. Less sunlight means less photosynthesis, which is how the plant generates energy and grows. Under the shade, the tea plants spread out and become thin and tender. They compensate for the lack of sunlight by increasing the amount of chlorophyll. Chorloryphyll is a pigment that absorbs red and blue light but reflects green (hence the green colour) so increasing the chlorophyll gives the leaves a bright green colour. After picking, the leaves are steamed, air dried and the main part of the leaf are separated from the stems and veins to produce tencha. The tencha is then ground using granite wheels to make the bright green, fine, matcha powder.

The video from o-cha.com shows the covering of the tea plants with bamboo and straw, the shaded hand-plucking and then the processing that takes place afterwards to make both gyokuro and matcha.

Matcha generally comes in three grades. The highest grade is Koicha (thick tea) and this is used in Japanese tea ceremonies to make a dense, viscous tea. Usucha (thin tea) is the second grade and it is used in Japanese tea ceremonies to make a more diluted thin tea with frothy foam. Finally, cooking matcha is used as an ingredient to make food like matcha ice-cream, cakes etc.

Matcha has the reputation of going stale quickly so if you are making the investment (matcha is a comparatively expensive green tea), it is worthwhile paying a little extra for a good quality matcha that is fresh. Matcha is not something that I will always have in the house. I’ll generally buy about 35g and then drink it every day until it’s gone (known in my house as the matcha-spree!).

To prepare matcha you will need a bamboo tea whisk (chasen). It is also helpful to have a tea bowl (chawan) and a tea ladel (chashaku) but these can be substituted with a flat bottomed bowl and a teaspoon. The bowl is pre-heated, then dried and about 2g of matcha powder is added with the ladel. Some people sieve the matcha to break the small lumps but I just break them up with the tip of the whisk. Water at approx 80°C is added and then the mixture is whisked until smooth with a back and forth motion (like writing a “W”) rather than a circular motion. The matcha is suspended in the hot water during whisking (not dissolved) which means that matcha particles will settle to the bottom of the bowl if it is left to stand so enjoy immediately.

I bought my current batch of matcha (Ishikawa Matcha) in Postcard Teas, London and it cost £20 for a 40g refill pack.